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"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Business & Association Development, Marketing, Professional Workshops forthe Horse Industry

What Does "Horse Professional" Mean To You?
by Lisa Derby Oden

You hear the term over and over. The horse industry is represented by a
diverse group of participants. Riders, trainers, and instructors of the many
disciplines; horse health care providers such as boarding stables, farriers,
veterinarians, and complementary care providers; feed companies; tack and
stable equipment suppliers; builders and fencing companies; trailer sales;
show and recreation providers. This list is only a beginning. Many
industries and professions have standards that indicate how a person becomes
a "professional" within that field. Doctors go to medical school. Real
estate and insurance professionals are required to pass licensing. School
teachers must continue to gather staff development credits throughout their
careers. These are a few examples. The horse industry is, once again, a
horse of a different color. There are many opportunities for continuing
education, on and off the horse. There are also certifications and
competitive honors that can be gained. So then, what does "horse
professional" mean? The responses to a survey I conducted follow. The first
group of quotes came from people who earn money with horses. Here's what you

"It's sort of an old-fashioned term. It used to mean one who received
payment for teaching. Now I believe it refers to someone for whom it is a
prime pattern for life. It is not a hit-or-miss thing, but rather a day to
day activity. It may have to be dovetailed with something else, but it is
not secondary to something else. Then, of course, there are the IRS
standards. A horse professional has training and the commitment to put it
into practice. It is their prime dedication."

"Deep down inside, I think of a professional horseman as someone who acts as
an educated horseman should - with knowledge, skill, and regard for the
horse. And an amateur as someone who acts like a rookie of sorts. But
outwardly, I think of a professional as someone who makes a living as a
horseman, be he or she skilled or unskilled, knowledgeable or
unknowledgeable. And an amateur horseman as one who is involved with horses
as a hobby. An amateur may, however be more knowledgeable and skilled than a

"I think a professional horseman is someone who takes money for working with
horses. Teaching, training, grooming, etc. Whereas an amateur does it for
fun, not a living."

"I hate that word. I think it is used too often by people who are trying to
sell something. But I feel it's someone who understands their capabilities
as an instructor. It also connotes the way you act around people, with
decorum and a good mindset. You get paid for the job you are doing, and you
look at the content of what you can do. A professional doesn't tout it,
he/she just does it."

"Somebody who works with horses for money and consequently has to produce
results. Or is expected to produce results in a shorter period of time."

"One who specializes in the equine profession and utilizes properties such
as patience, ethics, empathy, open communications, and safety for each
horse and rider as to ensure proper growth."

"As I view it, the term "horse professional" refers to any individual who
makes or intends to make the majority of livelihood from some aspect of the
horse business. It in no way implies knowledge, experience, or ethical
conduct any more than, for example, the term "Real Estate Professional"
means that you will encounter a truly qualified individual to help you with
a real estate transaction."

"I think of it as people in the teaching, training and boarding business.
But you have to have the right stuff. You need education, experience and
communication skills. Just because you have a big barn and can fill it with
horses doesn't mean that you can teach and train."

"Someone who sees the horse as more than a means to an end. Is aware they
don't know everything. Knows when to seek information or help from others.
Willing to listen to other concepts and ideas, maybe even have a lively yet
constructive debate! Helps other considerately when they can. (We've all
committed a faux pas at one time or another.) Keeps safety as a guideline
but at the same time has fun!"

The following are quotes from people involved with horses but are not
earning money with them.

"Even though I don't get paid, I consider myself a horse professional. Most
people think a horse professional is someone who runs a horse business of
some sort and gets paid for his/her endeavors. In my opinion, a true horse
professional is someone who is dedicated to whatever they do with horses.
Someone who has integrity and maintains high standards, genuinely caring for
the well-being of the animal, the sport, and the industry in general. A
horse professional is a person who shows a true love for their horse-related
activity regardless of the financial gain involved."

"Somebody who is an accomplished rider, has extensive knowledge of horse
health, and does training."

"Someone who works at it 24 hours a day because no one else will."

"A horse professional is two things: a rider who is continually training and
competing or a trainer who's continually learning."

"The person obtains their financial security from their involvement with
horses. If you are not supporting yourself through your horse activities
then I'd consider you an amateur."

"A person who has an academic background and training with horses who works
in the field full time. Professionalism involves continually learning and
updating skills, and conducting yourself with high
standards and ethics."

It comes down to a mix of these things, with the volume turned up more on
some qualities more than others: dedication, attitude, continual learning,
time investment, financial compensation, ethics, and behavior.


(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business."  She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry. She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at; or visit her
website at

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